‘Your body is a vehicle to your work; every decision you make could impact your art.’
Karolina Gajewska is a performing artist from Poland. She started her sports journey as at the age of 9. Karolina represented Poland as part of the female sports acrobatics national team of 3 at several world-class competitions. When her sports career was over, Karolina finished her second-cycle studies in architecture, but eventually, she decided to take her acrobatic skills to another level and became a professional artist.
How old were you when your flexibility journey began?
My flexibility journey began from the day I was born—I’ve always had a knack for stretching. When I went to my first acrobatic class at age 9, my friends used to be jealous of my hyperextensions, which are a genetic gift from my mum. The coach quickly noticed my abilities and made them my superpower in the acrobatic field.
What drew you to contortion and aerial arts?
I was attending the opening ceremony of the Acrobatic Gymnastics World Championships where I was competing with my team and there was an aerial show on silks. That day, I fell in love with this kind of acrobatics and decided to give it a chance one day. Luckily or not, when I didn’t pass the exams for architecture school on my first attempt, an opportunity arose to join the acrobatic team in another city. I followed the wind. They made me a contortionist and showed me the basics of aerial arts. That’s where it all began. They also took advantage of how young I was, full of passion and naive, and never delivered my salary. I returned to school and took an artistic break for six years—with a short comeback for a reality show.
What is your favourite thing about being a movement artist?
My favourite thing about being a movement artist is being in movement! I love action. I love to create in space with my body, my own moves, and my own rules. I can say it out loud: I am addicted to movement! And I am pretty proud of it.
You are into lifting and CrossFit, which is rare for ballerinas and contortionists. Can you tell us more about this?
Sports acrobatics is somehow about lifting each other. My dad is a sports freak, an ironman athlete; one day, he took me to a CrossFit class. I loved it so much as I was no longer dependent on other people, and it fulfilled the emptiness created by the end of my acrobatic sports career. A few years later, I visited a CrossFit gym in the city where I was studying and met the love of my life, a CrossFit athlete. With that relationship, my life changed. Day by day, I became stronger as an athlete and a woman. Joint training and our passion for movement made my body incredibly strong, taught me to believe in myself, and made me aware that everything is possible. Achieving that and having dominated the basics of acrobatics, aerial arts became a piece of cake.
CrossFit training is now my routine. Instead of spending extra hours in the acrobatic hall with the rest of the artists, I go to the CrossFit gym and give it all, following the path of my life partner. It helps me keep my head clear and maintain a good relationship with the place in which I create my art.
Why did you decide to become a teacher, and what do you think is your signature approach?
It was a great way to make money and stay in an acrobatic environment while studying architecture. This kind of job offer found me, so I followed the wind once more. At first, I was unsure if teaching was my thing, but then I realised that my approach with children is good, and I have the gift to infect them with a passion for acrobatics. I started to experience much satisfaction from making other people passionate, hardworking, and aware of the importance of living in a healthy body.
Is there anything you wish someone had told you about this line of work when you were starting?
Always believe in yourself and your art, value your work and your health, make the client aware of the specifics of your work and don’t let anyone fool you. You can do anything you want, keep moving and work hard.
What are you incorporating into your lifestyle to make sure you have a long career as a contortionist and aerialist?
The optimal lifestyle for a movement artist is really hard work. Nobody will tell you how to do it. You need to investigate your health paths and update them with the current knowledge, physiotherapy techniques and supplementation. Your body is your vehicle; every decision you make may impact your art. You need to be aware of that, do your best to keep it in a good condition and don’t go crazy.
What works for me?
• CrossFit: It clears my head, makes me sweat like nothing else in this world, creates my strength and is a kind of a date with my life partner. As a result, I can let myself go a little crazy with food. What is life without chocolate and ice cream? I found a solution for my weakest point and I am happy about that!
• Cold Exposure: It works perfectly for me as a regenerative practice. I take a cold shower every morning and try to jump into cold water when there is an occasion.
• Good Quality Sleep: This is a must! I sleep 7-8 hours daily in a dark, airy room.
• Physiotherapy: I use it regularly. Nothing is better than prevention for an athlete and a good specialist who can help you in that field. For every training, I start with a foam roller. Since I combine being a contortionist and a CrossFit beast, I found it helpful to maintain appropriate muscle tension.
Do you include specific foods or supplements in your diet to enhance your performance or flexibility?
I start my day with the best supplement I have ever had: FLEXIBLE collagen by LEMAlab. It supports my muscles, joints, and connective tissue elasticity and prepares me for my flexible day. Magnesium is a must for an athlete. Apart from taking care of more than 600 reactions in the body, magnesium can effectively enhance your sleep quality, which is crucial in the regeneration process.
Have you ever gotten injured?
At the beginning of my career, I broke two ribs during the contortion job in Poland. I am not sure when exactly it happened, but I am sure it was a fatigue fracture. I was young and I was a fool. I had to stop being active for a long time, it was tough but also an instructive time for me. Now I know that I will never do that harm to my body again. Fourteen shows daily (even if you don’t need to do the whole act every time) is way too much for any acrobat. That experience taught me to treat my body with respect and put myself first.
What is your greatest hidden talent?
I can turn into a child, especially during classes with children. I run, I play, I scream. Maybe it’s not that hidden for those kids, but I don’t know if my supervisors are aware of that. In the end, my students and I are super happy because all the energy is out, and we can return to the training specifics with more attention.